Alex Hitchcock continues his mission to seek
out new sounds and textures at the forefront of
contemporary jazz, and to act as a catalyst to
bring together some of the finest musical talents
drawn to the fervid internationalism of the
contemporary London scene.
His response to the current challenging climate
for artistic endeavour is to go big and go bold:
Dream Band: Live in London is a truly groundbreaking project presenting three different ‘dream bands’ of his favourite musicians, captured live over three nights at London’s legendary Vortex club performing music specially composed for each ensemble. The extraordinary line-ups he assembled are testament to the respect he has earned among his peers as a composer, player and bandleader with a uniquely inspiring vision.
The band for the first night features the frontline of Mark Kavuma’s trumpet and Liselotte Östblom’s vocals blending together over the trio of Rob Luft, Rio Kai, and Jamie Murray: the second features James Copus on trumpet
with longtime musical partners Kit Downes on piano and Lewis Wright on vibes, and Conor Chaplin and Marc Michel supplying bass and drums, and the third sets Downes’ piano alongside the guitar of Ant Law and Alexandra Ridout’s trumpet, with the international all-star rhythm section team of Orlando le Fleming and James Maddren. Part of the album’s delight lies in the unexpected combinations of these acclaimed players, and the new levels of creativity that they bring forth; the constant presence of Hitchcock’s unmistakeable voice on tenor sax and the strength and consistency of his
writing gives the project a compelling unity.
Each of the three bands brings their own unique blend of voices to Hitchcock’s compositions, taking them in directions unforeseen even by their composer: “I was committed to the idea of giving up the control on the day of the recording and creating the space for others to work in – there’s a lot of trust involved. It’s a snapshot of a moment in time, of something that’s always evolving –
surrendering control to see what happens.”
The twenty tracks that make up the album offer a rich feast of creativity, to an extent that’s seldom matched in contemporary jazz releases. Listen to the way Rob Luft and Mark Kavuma’s contrasting solos soar above the typically restless, bubbling beat created by Kai and Murray on ‘Sach’, and how they combine with Liselotte Östblom’s crystal clear vocal in the calm serenity of
‘Verglas’ or the poised chorale of ‘Grace’. Hear the irresistible propulsion generated by Lewis Wright and Kit Downes on ‘Momentum’ over their rhythm
team – “Conor and Marc are so springy and agile and expressive” – and the way that Hitchcock’s distinctive tenor sound blends with his long-time frontline partner James Copus’ trumpet to create the limpid, spectral textures of ‘Brocken’. Note also how the endless rhythmic subtlety generated by Orlando Le Fleming and James Maddren spurs on Alex Ridout’s trumpet to dizzying
heights on ‘Differentials,’ while Ant Law’s angularly melodic guitar constantly pushes the band into new directions over the deliriously wonky beats of ‘Red’.
Hitchcock says “I feel lucky to be surrounded by so many distinctive and contrasting voices, and want to capture that variety on record, creating space for the musicians to express themselves and shape my music.” Dream Band:
Live in London is a triumphant record of a bold artistic strategy paying off, for the artists and for the listener alike.